The Early History of Seismometry (to 1900)

James Dewey and Perry Byerly


Instruments have been used in the study of earthquakes for over eighteen hundred years. The earliest known seismoscope was intended to record both the occurrence of earthquakes and the azimuths of their origins from the observer. In the eighteenth century, we find proposals to record the times of earthquakes and the character of the ground motion occurring in earthquakes. A most important advance was made late in the nineteenth century, with the invention of instruments which gave records representing earthquake ground motion as a continuous function of time. We will call such instruments seismographs, regardless of the accuracy of their representations of earth motion. Our history will end at the beginning of the twentieth century.

From the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. Vol. 59, No. 1, pp. 183-227. February, 1969.